Last updated: March 26. 2014 4:45PM - 585 Views
Valerie Newton Special to the Journal

Tar Heel Middle School, circa 1925.
Tar Heel Middle School, circa 1925.
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ELIZABETHTOWN — In our first article, we introduced you to Bladenboro Primary School and Bladen Lakes Primary School and briefly explained the Sales and Use Tax referendum on the May 6 ballot.

During the 2013-2014 fiscal year, the Bladen County School System experienced $2,362,335 in state budget cuts. The state funds public schools with three basic types of money allotments: Position, Dollar, and Categorical.

The state allots positions to a local school system for a specific purpose. The local school system pays whatever is required to hire certified teachers and other educators, based on the State Salary Schedule, without being limited to a specific dollar amount. Each local school system will have a different average salary based on the certified personnel’s experience and education. Examples of position allotments are teachers, school building administration, and instructional support personnel.

Dollar allotments allow local school systems to hire employees or purchase resources for a specific purpose, but the local school system must operate within the allotted dollar amount. Examples of dollar allotments are teacher assistants, textbooks, and classrooms materials, supplies, and equipment.

Categorical allotments are used by local school systems to purchase all services necessary to address the needs of a specific population or service. The local school system must operate within the allotted funds. These funds may be used to hire personnel such as teachers, teacher assistants, and instructional support personnel or to provide a service such as transportation, staff development, or to purchase supplies and materials. Examples of categorical funding are At-risk Student Services, Children with Disabilities, Non-instructional support personnel and transportation.

Since 1970, the Public School’s share of the State’s General Fund has decreased by 15.25 percent. If the Public Schools were still funded at the same percentage as in 1969-70, they would have an additional $3.02 billion for its students that could be distributed across all school systems in the state. With a total of 115 school systems, that money could mean the difference between a budget surplus and a budget shortfall for a school system.

With dependency on state allotments, a reduction in funding can alter how a school system operates and maintains its educational organization. Bladen County Schools, like all schools in North Carolina, has over the last eight years been the product of funding reductions. In an effort to maintain status-quo and as a result, our school buildings and facilities have suffered the most. It’s the “borrow from Peter to pay Paul” scenario.

With buildings and facilities in need of repair and renovation came the Sales and Use Tax referendum. The proposed one-fourth of one penny sales tax increase would generate annually an estimated $450,000 of revenue. Legislation prevents the use of federal and state dollars for school repairs, renovations and maintenance. By law, general statue requires that local government fund the facility requirements of school buildings.

To ensure fidelity of revenue generated from the Sales and Use Tax referendum if approved by the voters, Superintendent Robert Taylor has created a Promises Made, Promises Kept pledge, and will provide a quarterly report to the Board of Education and the public on expenditures made with sales tax proceeds.

In this article we’re featuring two more schools, Tar Heel Middle and East Arcadia School and some of the facility needs that exist at these schools. Consistently across the Bladen County and also evidenced at these schools are out-dated infrastructure, non-efficient, failing external structures, and lack of high-performance operations.

— Tar Heel Middle is a fifth- through eighth-grade school with approximately 375 students currently enrolled. Of all the schools in the county, Tar Heel has seen the most additions, renovations, and repairs than any other.

The original school was a two-story building built in 1925 to serve high school students. However, in 1943 the two storied building burned, and the remnants left standing, were renovated and are still in use today. These are currently the two wings on either side of the main building entrance, a media center and a cafeteria. Square footage of the original school is not available but the renovations in 1943 brought the total to approximately 23,000 square feet. The school could accommodate 150 students.

In 1958 the gym was built with approximately 11,000 square feet to replace the former one destroyed by fire. One additional classroom was built in 1961 with a total of 700 square feet. In 1972 a weight room and a JROTC classroom was added with another 2,148 square feet. Four classrooms were added to the main building in 1958 and 1976. A new vocational complex was built in 1977 to replace the former wooden agricultural shop originally constructed in 1925.

A principal’s residence was built in 1950 and served in this capacity until 1979 when it was converted into a band room, then later into a physical education classroom, then the art room, until it was torn down the summer of 2005.

Two huts were built in 1968 and 1972 by the ag students. A field house was built in 1975 and two more classrooms were added in 1977.

In 1987-88, a new band room, four additional science and business classrooms and four more classrooms for English and social studies were built. In 1988 land for a larger athletic field was purchased. With the last addition, the total square footage reached approximately 67,000.

In the spring of 2001, Tar Heel High School students became part of the new West Bladen High School and the school converted to a middle school.

The fall of 2011 brought yet another renovation project to Tar Heel with the replacement of the school’s wooden floors. The floor joist, some original to 1943, had been patched and re-patched until there was nothing left but the nails. The old flooring was removed along with other cosmetic structures and replaced with new flooring. Additionally, new electrical wiring, and heating and air conditioning were part of the flooring project.

Built in 1943, the media center today exists as it did then with the same walls and flooring, outdated infrastructure unable to accommodate today’s technology demands, and poor ventilation. In total square footage, the media center was built to accommodate approximately 35 students at a time.

— East Arcadia School is a Kindergarten through eighth grade school with approximately 150 students currently enrolled and 14 full-time teachers. The school has the smallest student population in the county.

In 1988 the student population was approximately 319 students and 20 full-time teachers. The largest student population was in 1990 with 327 students and 22 full-time teachers.

The school has experienced a steady decline in enrollment yearly with contributing factors such as the opening of several nearby charter schools and an aging population.

The first building, which is currently the front building housing the main office and middle school wing, was built in 1956 with a total of 20,000 square feet to accommodate approximately 150 students.

Between 1959 and 1976 the school added the back building which currently serves as the lower grades, and has a total of 17,000 square feet. This building can accommodate up to another 175 students.

In 1989 the school added the gymnasium with a total of 8,800 square feet which adjoins the kindergarten wing of the back building.

Alumni and former graduates of the school often use the gymnasium for community functions.

Since the first building was built, there have been no major renovations to the school. The cinder-block walls are the original walls and hundreds of students have challenged the durability of the layers of paint on the walls.

Of concern at the school are the bathrooms which are original to the first building. Bathroom renovations and upgrades could result in improved sanitation, greater comfort and easier access for all, and lower operating costs.

The third article in this series will feature Booker T. Washington Primary, a pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade school, and Elizabethtown Middle, a fifth- through eighth-grade school.

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